How to Do Email Marketing For Your CBC - Jay McGrane

Because email marketing is so important, it's important not to overlook anything. That's why I interviewed Jay McGrane to learn her email marketing framework specifically for cohort-based courses.

We Covered
  • How Jay got into helping online course businesses with email marketing (01:44)
  • The big picture email marketing framework for CBCs (03:36)
  • Why Jay emphasizes zero spam in her email philosophy (05:00)
  • Where the nurture (first) phase of email marketing begins (08:24)
  • The welcome email and how to begin segmentation (10:31)
  • Segmentation and what makes a good lead magnet/gift (12:43)
  • The next step is to get subscribers onto your waitlist and nurture them (18:17)
  • The next step is to launch the course to the waitlist (20:28)
  • How to pitch without sounding spammy or desperate (22:50)
  • Email platform recommendation (28:45)
  • The three subphases of the post-purchase phase (29:19)
  • How to onboard members into the cohort (31:27)
  • The coursework phase: encourage members to stick with it (42:53)
  • Ideas for turning members into brand advocates (46:53)
  • Final questions (52:45)
In a Nutshell
  1. Lead with generosity, get email subscribers onto your waitlist, and nurture your waitlist with helpful content, reverse testimonials, Zoom calls, etc.
  2. Ask your waitlist to purchase
  3. Onboard your new customers by setting expectations, getting them to take actions to prepare for day 1, and to remind them why they’re taking the course and that you’ve got their back
  4. Nudge them back into the community when necessary
  5. Turn alumni into brand advocates by continuing to deepen your relationship with them and by giving them the ability to spread the word
Full Transcript

[00:00:13] Jonathan: Ahoy, captain! Welcome to Cohort Captain, the only super actionable podcast made for cohort-based course creators. I'm your host, Jonathan Woodruff.

As a cohort-based course creator, you might have an email list. And I bet that you want to write emails that sell more without bothering your subscribers or sounding desperate or spammy.

And while there are a lot of folks telling you how to do email marketing in general, I'm not sure anyone is talking about how to do it as a cohort-based course creator specifically with the unique challenge of having a waitlist for your cohort and things like that. 

That's why my guest today is Jay McGrane of She helps online course businesses to write emails that sell without annoying their audience and without sounding spammy. And she's here right now to walk us through how to do it as a cohort-based course creator. 

So what's up, Jay?

[00:01:25] Jay: Hey, great to be here. Thanks so much for the lovely introduction. It's great to be here. I love cohort-based courses. I think it's because I come from a K-12 background, a teacher is most of my background. And you know, I was looking at the cohorts. They have a special place in my heart.

So I'm very excited to talk about email marketing for cohorts.

[00:01:44] Jonathan: Yeah, it's really cool thinking about cohorts as being akin to like classroom teaching, right? Because, you know, traditional online courses, it lacks that layer of what we think of when we're sitting in a classroom with a teacher and we have students around us, you know, sometimes we're doing team projects and we're doing assignments and there's all these other elements that cohort-based courses bring.

And it's really, I've heard some people describe it as just like an online layer to like what we think of as a classroom when we're in school. So it's really cool that you're bringing that experience here today with you and… And I do want to dig more into your story a bit.

So how did you get into helping online course businesses with their email marketing?

[00:02:28] Jay: Well, it's, I do have that background in education and it just felt like a really natural fit. So after my daughter was born, I decided I didn't want to be in the classroom anymore, at least not full time. So I needed some way to make more money, and I turned to freelance writing. And when I did that, I actually have an MA in English Lit, so it felt really natural to write again.

And I did a lot of research for e-learning companies as who I first started working with and learned a lot about adult education. And then I started to turn to email when I realized it was just such a big gap in what people were doing to help students move through courses that I really wanted to help.

And I just love email. There's just something really special about writing an email. It's such, it's a one-to-one piece of communication. It's the biggest relationship building tool you have in your toolbox. So to help online course businesses create better relationships. I was all in, I was all in on that, and that's exactly what I do now.

I work with them on their sales emails on abandoned cart emails on welcome sequences, kind of whatever email sequence they need, I help write it.

[00:03:36] Jonathan: Nice. So when you first noticed there, you mentioned there's this big gap in what you were seeing in email marketing and what you think it could be. So w w w what did that gap look like to you? How did, why did that stand out so much to you?

[00:03:51] Jay: Well, let's like just think about what email marketing does first before we get to that gap, because there's kind of three phases of email marketing that people talk about really broadly. So the first is that nurture phase. When you first get them on your list, then you kind of have either a launch or a purchase decision phase. It can look very different depending on your business. And then there's that post-purchase that happens after they've said yes to you. 

And I think that's probably… the post-purchase area, especially for cohort-based creators is super important. And it's often getting overlooked as people are very concerned about selling as much of their digital product as they can and not as much about how many people actually getting out of their digital product, which of course then leads to a poor reputation eventually, and even to the point where I think the stat is only one to 3% of people were actually completing their digital courses, right? 

So email marketing has a role to play in helping people nudging them back into your course and helping them get a result from it because learning, learning is a two way street, right? You don't learn by just sitting and watching. You actually need to do.

[00:05:00] Jonathan: Yeah. So I love that you broke that down into the three phases. We have nurture, launch, and post-purchase, and I want to get into all of those. But first, before we get into all those, I wanted to just mention that I was noticing on your LinkedIn and on your website, actually in that you really focus on being an ethical marketer, uh, respectful that you actually care about people that's like an emphasis in your business.

So, um, because I think when we think of email marketing, at least I do, there's just a lot of like, oh, my gosh, like, how do you do this like, pressure cooker campaign on your email to squeeze as many dollars as you can out of your email list and like, you know, kind of treating your email list, like they're objects and, you know, you know, objectifying people.

Whereas I think there's a lot of opportunity to bring the humanity back to it. So anyway, that's my take on it, but how did that become so important to you? That respect part of it?

[00:06:00] Jay: I think it's just partly how I am as a person, that it didn't feel like it was aligned for me, that we could continually kind of treat our email lists like they're cash cows when there's somebody else on the other side of the screen. 

And also probably from my training, I'm trained as a conversion copywriter. So conversion copywriters start with voice of customer data first, and it's very difficult to empathize with your reader if you don't see them as a person, And when you start to dig deeply into what really matters to them, that's what converts as well. That this ethical way is usually a way to higher conversions as well.

Yes, there's still urgency and there's still scarcity, but when you can empathize deeply with your reader, you can create really specific copy. And that copy is what converts, it's what makes them feel seen and heard and say yes to you. And I think, especially when you start talking about cohort-based creators, usually you're talking about somebody who's selling a high ticket product, and no one wants to buy from you if they don't know, like, and trust you.

So that ethical piece is going to help you become known, liked, and trusted. Without it, your copy just sounds like you swiped it from somewhere and like spammy internet marketer, instead of the relationship building copy that you're going to want. 

And also who do you want in your cohort? Right? Hey, I see you nodding your head, right? Like, I mean, who do you want in your cohort? Right. If you don't write this respectful copy to another human being that's the ideal person you want because it's, you're not giving them an online course and then never seeing them again. You're going to be with this person for weeks usually. They're going to have great access to you. Like who do you want in your life? You don't want a headache. You want someone who you can help that you feel good helping. 

And that's really what helps copy convert and find and sort for you too. I think there's an element that our marketing should help people sort what they need and also help us as businesses sort the people we want to work with.

[00:08:24] Jonathan: I love that, it's like, if we're doing copywriting the way it’s intended to, and the marketing the way it's intended to, it is bringing that human aspect into it. And that's what I've found true marketing to be so far is that, there's a lot of stuff out there that kind of gives it a bad rap, but when you kind of peel back the layers of all that stuff and get deep into it, it's like, okay, if we're actually doing proper copywriting, like it is, we have to get to know our audience and be able to speak to them.

And that just, that does bring that human connection there to it. So, I want to get deeper into that as well, into like, how can we, like get to know our audience through our email marketing, but I think it will work best to kind of get into like these deeper layers going through this framework that you mentioned of nurture, launch, and post-purchase, so let's begin with the nurture phase of the email marketing.

So as a cohort-based course, creator, where does this phase begin and what are we trying to achieve at this point?

[00:09:21] Jay: Well, nurture is going to begin at any point when someone signs up for your list. So usually people started with their social media, but it could start somewhere else. One of the things that I think is really interesting about cohort-based course creators is sometimes their partnerships provide great nurture.

So when I'm going to be in a mastermind in January and the woman running my mastermind is part of another copywriting group, right? So a lot of her nurture, she's a coach in that other copywriting group that is now running her own mastermind. So a lot of her nurture is happening within that copywriting community so that there is definitely, I think, a place for deep partnerships for cohort-based course creators in much smaller communities and very niche communities potentially, that allow them to develop deep relationships there that are very personal.

So that could be where you start. And then eventually for email, you would eventually put someone on your list would be the next step.

[00:10:21] Jonathan: Okay, so we kind of go from these partnership communities, um, 
Jay: Social media…

Jonathan: Social media

Jay: Events…

Jonathan: Events

[00:10:29] Jay: Yeah. Get someone on your list.

[00:10:31] Jonathan: Get someone on our list. So now, so now we have someone on our list. So what's the first email that we should be sending this person.

[00:10:38] Jay: Usually you have some sort of tripwire offer, usually it's a freebie of some sort. Usually. People usually have that, or they have their newsletter. Potentially they've signed up for your newsletter. Even if you're doing a newsletter, I think there's always a place for a welcome email. No matter what you're doing, there should always be a welcome email, ideally with freebies attached to it in some fashion.

And what you're really starting to do is you’re starting to try to segment out your audience for what they're interested in. They might not be interested in everything you say, potentially they are, right. Like cohort-based creators tend to have smaller niches. So they might be interested in everything, which is great, but at that point, you’re welcoming them and showing them some of your best content, seeing what they're interested in, right? Because email marketing gives you great analytics. So find out, you know, segment them, ask them what they're interested in, maybe what information you want to know about them.

Maybe you want to know how many, like I was just segmented recently for an email marketing website who asked me how many subscribers I had. They want to know where I'm at on my subscriber journey. 

So whatever's important to your business to know… you get a little bit of information wrapped up in some education and some, you know, getting to know you, right? Some people do this with an online email course. So they actually send out a course every day to show a little bit, it's a great positioning tool to say, Hey, this is my, when you join my kind of stuff, this is what my big philosophy is about whatever I'm doing.

And then you can position yourself that way. So you basically want a welcome of some sort that does some sort of segmentation to say… ask them to be like, Hey, what are you interested in? And then they raise their hand, and then you want to do some positioning of like, Hey, this is what I'm about, this is what I believe in. And you know, you can do that with an online email course. You can do that over a couple emails. I had somebody, you know, that one of the email marketers is like, he said that we're going to get on my soap box for a minute and tell you what I believe about email marketing.

So he was kind of doing two things to really start to welcome someone, to let them know who you are and to get a chance to ask them what they're interested in.

[00:12:43] Jonathan: Yeah, I've seen a really good way to do that is to have like like you said, like a really good video course, but like maybe like a couple of different video courses. So like one video course would be appealing to one of your major segments and then a totally different video course would be tailored to a different segment that would be interested in that.

And so if they're interested in video series A, then, you know, they're a certain type of person. If they click on video series B or identify as that, like then you know that.

Or like even a quiz, right? Like, can you do a quiz to like ask them questions and then like bucket them and then give them the video series based on that?

[00:13:22] Jay: You can totally do a quiz. Some people do a quiz on the front end as their kind of lead magnet is a quiz, which is cool, really cool results. Some people do it as the top 10 mistakes you might be making that you didn't know about… that kind of quiz. Some people do like what type of, I always think of Disney princess at this point, obviously your course business is not going to be a Disney princess business, but you know, the kind of, what type of quiz are you? 

Jonathan: Maybe.

Jay: Maybe (laughs). You can tell I have a five-year-old in the house. Well, actually I'm doing Harry Potter, like we're reading Harry Potter right now. So it could be, you know, what house are you in obviously based on your business, right? Like, um, you know, for me copywriters, like what kind of copywriter are you?

Right. And then you'd go through kind of the types of copywriters that you could be, right? Like, are you a conversion copywriter? Are you a content marketer? Are you, you know, a novelist who just writes copy on the side, right? Like what kind of copywriter are you? You know, so those sorts of things, there's so much fun to be had with quizzes, and people love them.

There's a whole thing of quiz funnels out there.

[00:14:26] Jonathan: Yeah. Yeah. And you mentioned, um, like a quiz itself could be the lead magnet. What do you find works the best as for a lead magnet?

[00:14:34] Jay: I think anything that's personalized, and then it just starts to come down to your business of like what business model are you running on? What is your social media presence look like? What, like fills you with joy on the backend of your offer, right? And then what does your audience really, what do they dig? Like, and maybe the more important question is what isn't, what type of lead magnet works, but what problem is your lead magnet solving, right? Whatever that lead magnet is, it just needs to solve an important problem for that audience. 

Whatever their burning question is, whatever's keeping, like this is where like the research and empathy comes in is like, what is their actual big problem that you can solve? And what small win can you create via some sort of content? And then you dress it up. Then you dress it up as a quiz or a webinar or an ebook, whatever you want to dress it up as it doesn't really matter.

What matters is that, you know, that it hits, it hits for that audience. Right? So if we go back to our example of Disney princess, obviously for us, that doesn't really hit, but for my five-year-old, she's like, yeah, I'm there. Right? So like what a, you know, it's a really easy way to think about it, but like, what's going to make your audience perk up and go, yeah, I need that.

[00:15:51] Jonathan: Yeah. Okay. Yeah. That's a really good way to think about it. And it just made me think, like, you know, some cohort-based courses are so complex that you can't just solve their problem with like a PDF, but like some things are very skill-based that you could like teach them. So like, if I have a cohort-based course on, I don't know how to create a resume, I feel like your lead magnet could actually be like a video or a PDF on like everything you know on how to create a resume, not holding anything back, just giving it for free. They could honestly take that video or that PDF or whatever it is and go and write a resume that's like 10 times better than what they could have written before.

And it wouldn't hurt your business I don't think as a cohort-based course creator, because I think the problem that a CBC solves isn't just knowledge. It's the fact that you're working on the resume together with other people that you can ask questions and get feedback on your work. And I, I think that type of lead magnet would not only be helpful and a true gift, but that would be like very attractive and attract the right type of person, but also, it still wouldn't take away the need for your CBC. And I think that would be, that'd be kind of a cool thing.

[00:17:08] Jay: Yeah.

Or treat the symptom. That's another way to start to think of it too. If you feel like what you do is really big, can you treat a smaller symptom of the problem, right? Like we both kind of follow Louis Grenier and his course, like Stand The F Out. Is there a symptom that's happening to people lower, like earlier in the journey that eventually STFO is going to solve that, but we're going to give someone just enough information to solve one symptom.

Maybe that symptom is posting on social media in that case. Cuz like, I know that Louis talks a lot about visibility, But you know that it's solving a symptom without solving the larger issue.

[00:17:47] Jonathan: Yeah, no, that makes perfect sense. And, just for my listeners to know both me and Jay are big fans of Louis, so

[00:17:54] Jay: We are.

[00:17:55] Jonathan: We connect on that. So, um, I think by the end of this podcast, all my listeners are going to be big fans of Louis too cuz I just talk about him all the time in a good way. So.

[00:18:05] Jay: What like a great positive… you're like, you know what? We're going to talk about how you have become for Louis the brand advocate by the end of this podcast, we'll talk about like, you have become the ideal.

[00:18:17] Jonathan: Yeah, for sure. Yeah. So funny. Um, okay. So we have our lead magnet. We have our first email that sent out. It's a welcome email. We're starting to segment them. We know some information about them. What do we need to do next with our email marketing?

[00:18:34] Jay: You’re gonna want them on a waitlist for a cohort-based course. So give them some opportunities to get wait-listed and potentially give some exclusive opportunities to people on your waitlist, and even send out an email to everybody else and be like, Hey, I'm going to be online because, you know, I'm going to be on a zoom call with my waitlist cuz I know that they are really engaged people who want whatever I'm doing. I would love it. If you would join my wait list and then, Hey, you could be on the call too. 

Also on your waitlist it's a great opportunity to send some more testimonial based emails of like, Hey look, look at this person. They did great work because of what we did together. And even if they're on the wait list being like, just, Hey, here's this reminder and give it like wrapped in some education, like, you know, person X did a great thing and they did it by doing this, you could copy them… kind of deal. And then they can see the efficacy of your course and be like, oh cool.

And they're still getting value out of being on the waitlist. It's like, that's like the key for waitlisting is, how do you give what value to people on the waitlist?

[00:19:34] Jonathan: Yeah. I like that a lot. And, yeah, just the fact that like, you get them on the waitlist, but then it's not just like they're sitting there forever, just waiting for that one email three months later, that's saying, okay, now we're, you know, doing the program this time. It's like, you're able to actually continue to nurture them on the waitlist with special things, like a zoom call, and other things. So,

[00:19:59] Jay: Or just even like some content that, you know, because usually if they're on your waitlist, you have some sort of newsletter running usually at the same time, and it can be really powerful to start talking about the power of cohort-based courses again, you know, closer to your launch, you know, six weeks out from your launch, you create content about how courses changed your life, right?

And then what you think and believe makes cohort-based learning special, for example, and you kind of, you send out some of those emails and videos.

[00:20:28] Jonathan: So is it all like, because ultimately if someone's on your wait list, like eventually you would like them to sign up for your program, so…

[00:20:35] Jay: Well, then you launch, you move them from nurture until launch. So you have a launch of your program, and that's when sales emails come into play. 

So you can move them from nurture. So waitlisting is still nurturing. And then at some point you open your doors again, right? And it's when you open your doors that you need to send out those sales emails. 

And really ethical FOMO. We talked a lot about being ethical. Ethical FOMO is no one's on your list because they're perfectly happy with their life. You know, even if we go back to my teaching background, no teacher who loves the classroom and is super excited to go into work and work with children is on a list for freelance writers you know? they're, they're just not. They're busy doing their own lists for other things, right? And so there's usually a FOMO element. Someone wants your course because their life is missing something that your course is going to provide. So tap into that FOMO feeling of like, Hey, you know, the longer you wait on this, the farther, that bigger thing you want is getting out of reach for you.

And what's really great about cohort-based courses is you create urgency also ethically because there is real urgency, you will close your doors, right? So like when we talk about manufacturing urgency, it's a lot around evergreen stuff where there really is no urgency. There is no real countdown timer, but there is for a cohort.

There really is a countdown timer that, you know, on September 15th, I start my course, whoever is in the course on September 15th is who's in the course. If you miss, sorry, you're going to have to wait till I open again on, I don't know, March 15th, let's say you run it twice a year. you know what I mean?

So it's those sales emails that start to tap into a lot of those, you know, ethically into those you techniques that people don't like about marketing: urgency, scarcity, you know, those kind of like things that do move people past inertia that we often don't want to hit too hard. But I think that this is the time to hit it, right?

Like this is the time to say, you know what, I've done a really great job nurturing. I've given lots of value. It's time to tell them that this is happening. This is how their lives are going to change. And they have to sign up by this date, you know? And that's when you have that launch.

[00:22:50] Jonathan: Okay. So the waitlists were, we're getting them on the waitlist. That's like our goal, and then we're still nurturing them with zoom calls, testimonials, content. and by the way, testimonials for those of you listening, if you listen to episode eight with Sean D'Souza, we go over how to create reverse testimonials.

And I'll also post my medium article in the show notes so you can read how to create some reverse testimonials that are really, really compelling, and very interesting that you can put in your emails, but also that squash objections and achieve some really cool things for you, so definitely check that out, but, so then we're moving from waitlist nurturing to launch, and this is where we get into the sales.

So, how do, like, what do these emails look like? How do we sell without sounding desperate, I guess, or sounding like we're, you know

[00:23:47] Jay: With a great offer. You know?

I think so much sometimes… this is when the nurture is so important, right, is to get the right person to the right offer. And you sell with a great offer usually, right? The kind of basically how it goes is: list, offer, copy. I've no idea where that came from. It's just really famous.

But you start with the list about who's in your audience, and then you make them an offer and you optimize the offer. That's why segmentation can be great too, is that you can give them slightly different offers to help them move along. And someone might be super interested in the community aspect of your cohort.

Someone else may be really interested in the one-to-one coaching. And if you can just help them visualize. And you might know that, you might not, you might know from like the types of testimonials they've read and clicked on, what they're really interested in your program, because usually our programs are larger than, you know, they usually don't solve just one problem.

They usually solve a few things, and people are coming at different levels of what they need. So tap into that and really visualize the offer for them, and optimize it, you know, the types of bonuses you add to it and the other sorts of things that they're going to get. And that's really where we could move them out of this kind of content area into, Hey, this is what i's gonna look like. This is what it is. And here's the offer I'm making you, and this is how it's going to move your life forward. So it's a lot about offer at this point.

[00:25:17] Jonathan: And so how do you pitch, how do you message that offer? Can it not sound like a pitch, or does it have to sound like a pitch, or how does that actually sound?

[00:25:26] Jay: I think at some point you do need to pitch it at some point. And I think the earlier ones sound less like a pitch and the later ones sound more like a pitch. If you want it to sound less pitchy, you'll usually kind of use a, kind of a coaching methodology of, you know, getting them to affirm along the way that they believe certain things. And as you do that, then they naturally kind of self-persuade. I've also seen that where some of the messaging is around self-persuasion, where you match their belief. 

So we talked about those problems that the format dressing doesn't really matter. For your funnel, as long as it's meeting a real problem, it's kind of the same from your sales messaging is that the sales messaging that hits is going to be the stuff that solves real problems first and then shows your offer as the solution. 

And it can, you know, I think there is probably quite frankly, a time to pitch in your launch. And if someone really doesn't want to be launched, to just give them the option to get up out of the promo emails. Be really honest and say, I'm going to send promo emails to you if this is not right for you at this time, that's great. I totally respect that. Please click here and I won't send you any promo emails, right?

[00:26:43] Jonathan: Yeah, that's something, I that's something I saw Kevon Cheung, he was episode number four, and I signed up to his email list, and that's something he did where you could unsubscribe from his, like, I think it was like a seven day course email course or something like that. And you could unsubscribe from that without unsubscribing to his entire email list.

So yeah, I like that idea of being able to unsubscribe from the promo emails, without unsubscribing from the entire list.

[00:27:15] Jay: I also think that people want to read your promo emails at a certain point, that we are so scared to sell. But the reality is that eventually you want to be sold to. You want to know exactly what's in the course. I want to know what's happening on week 1, 2, 3, and four. 

I want to know what it's going to do for my business. I usually buy business courses, but I want to know, you know, what's happening and I want my objections to be met. Like I do. And eventually, and if I don't, then I just get off the list.

[00:27:49] Jonathan: Yeah, yeah. This is the beautiful part about business is that we are really solving problems or we should be, you know, solving real problems for people, and you're right that, for the right person, that is going to be very exciting, and they will want to pay money to solve their problems.

So, yeah.

[00:28:03] Jay: They’re going to want to read about it. They're going to like, you know, a great sales, long form sales page for the right person. We talk about, you know, how people don't read anymore, but if you have the right person who really wants the message on that sales page, they're going to read that sales page.

They might not read all of it, but they're kind of go through most of it because it's resonating with them, so that's kind of where the sales emails come in is that, you know, you want to meet their problem and visualize, you know, what's not happening in their life right now. And then visualize how the offer will solve it for them.

And I do think there's a point that where, you know, allow them to opt out, but then realize that there's going to be people on your list that they want what you're offering, and they're going to want the sale.

[00:28:45] Jonathan: Yeah, totally. And I meant to ask you earlier, is there a particular, cuz we're doing like, when we were talking about segmenting and everything, is there a particular email platform like ConvertKit or something that in particular would work well for these types of things.

[00:29:00] Jay: I think active campaign is the one people use most often is what I've heard. It has a lot of bells and whistles attached to it, but it depends really what your budget is I thin. A lot of people really love ConvertKit earlier in their journey. And then often people eventually move up to active campaign.

[00:29:19] Jonathan: Okay. Interesting. Okay so we have a really awesome lead magnet. We got people into our emails. We started getting them in our waitlist. We nurtured them in our waitlist. We moved into the launch phase with the selling emails and getting people to take our course. And once they take our course, well actually there's during while they're taking our course. And then there's after taking our course, right? Is that the next kind of phase where entering into?

[00:29:46] Jay: I actually like broke down for cohort-based course creators is kind of three phases in this post-purchase area. And I think this is where the gap is for a lot of people is there's really an onboarding phase that occurs. And I think that's where it's kind of under utilized I think, is that, you know, it’s probably the second most important email you're going to send to somebody after your welcome email is this onboarding email, especially for someone that's just purchased from you is it's really going to help counteract any buyer's remorse that is going on.

And it's going to put them in the right frame of mind to make the small changes that are necessary. Because I think one of the things I noticed with course creators in general is that we have a big sales page with really big promises on it. And then we kind of dump people in our courses and expect them to navigate it. The reality is that those big promises are realized through small actions. So your onboarding should put people in the frame of mind of you know, taking action on the small wins that are going to start happening for them. And, you know, not only logistically because I see a lot of people kind of seeing onboarding as kind of a logistics space and I'm not sure that's the only way to onboard.

[00:31:04] Jonathan: Okay. Awesome. So I want to go deeper into onboarding, but first, what are the other two sub phases of the post-launch?

[00:31:11] Jay: Sorry. Onboarding, the coursework itself, and then turning people into brand advocates.

[00:31:18] Jonathan: ahhhhhh,

[00:31:19] Jay: …would be like kind of the last one, kind of, you know, offboarding and then nurturing people into brand advocacy.

[00:31:27] Jonathan: Gotcha. Okay. Awesome. So onboarding, like, as they're just getting into the cohort coursework while they're in the cohort and then.

[00:31:37] Jay: Usually it happens before your first meeting. So usually what happens is what I notice is there's often the time when they sign up and then there's this kind of gap where you kind of like leave them, but you know, they're super happy to sign up. Right. So it's to take this time when you have this person who's really excited to be taking your course and rather than just waiting for them to arrive on day one, where you do some nurturing, er, onboarding at this point, right, where you talk about the course, and you can start to talk about your community and send some emails even to start them on any coursework that they might already be ready to do. And the one-to-one coaching stuff if you need a questionnaire from them at this point, right? 

Like a lot of it's logistical, but to also message match what's just happened in your launch emails. Right? All those big problems that we solve to then kind of become more granular and be like, Hey, people that interact with our community are going to have 180% more success than somebody that doesn't interact. So get into the community and introduce yourself. And you know, there's going to be a water cooler going on for you to have a chance to do this for anybody. You know, like this would be really great for me cuz I'm a super social, like I really like live social stuff. So that would kind of really hit home for somebody like me. 

But then to allow them to be like, you know, take small actions and to keep that future self of like, you know, in mind, right. Especially since some of these big changes do require a lot of mindset shifts if you continue to nurture the types of mindsets that might be coming in, right. 

And so, you know, help coaching people through those mindsets and also persuading them to actually fill out your questionnaire, actually go introduce themselves, you know, actually download the app, whatever app you're using, right. To use all the same persuasive copy techniques you already used.

To then actually, you know, move them into the smaller actions that they're going to need to do. Because it's in the small actions that you're going to see big results.

[00:33:43] Jonathan: So if we're emailing them during this onboarding phase, the ultimate goal is to get them interacting into the community and get involved. So what does that look like? Do we first send, like, let's say everyone signs up on Monday. Do we just like, 

Jay: That’s the dream world there.

Jonathan: (laughs) Do we send like one email to like get them in. And then, and then we, like, that's where we set the tone is just like all in one email, or is it like a drip of like a sequence of emails over like a week or two?

[00:34:22] Jay: My opinion about email is the more people in your cohort, the more email support you need. So the less people in your cohort and the more one-to-one access you're giving somebody the less email support you need, because someone is going to, you know, you're going to set up that one-to-one meeting with them.

And a lot of your relationship building, you may have had a one-to-one sales call already has already happened. 

But let's say it's a cohort-based program, like Brand 30 is a good example that was fairly large. Or even, I think ship 30 does something similar on Twitter, where there's not necessarily, it's not a particularly, there’s not necessarily a great deal of access. That's where you want more email support. 

So it comes down a little bit to how personalized your program is, the amount of emails you're going to send. Because the less personalized it is, the more work those emails have to do. 
Because you probably aren't setting up a one to one, you know? Like in Brand 30, when I did it, there wasn't exactly, you know, Andrew, the guy that runs it, wasn't like, Hey Jay, are you ready for your one-to-one meeting on Tuesday? Right? Like he had I dunno 150 people in there. Of course he wasn't gonna do a one-to-one meeting with all of us. So the emails are really doing the work for them.

And Brand 30 had a really great onboarding sequence. They had a five day onboarding sequence about the week ahead of time to kind of anticipate and start to think of you like put all your ducks in a row, logistically we're on this platform, we're doing this, these are our dates, this is our community, get in there. And you know, your accountability buddy is coming. So watch out for that. 

And they did it over five emails. They dripped out five. With a smaller mastermind, you might just end up working with a VA who's like, Hey, let's get this scheduled. And both ways work. It's just that the bigger the cohort with less personalization, the more you have to relationship build via your emails.

[00:36:13] Jonathan: That makes sense.

[00:36:13] Jay: So it becomes, yeah, it becomes a question of what type of cohort are you running? How big is it, and how often is it running? And what exactly, what mindset do they need to come in with? Like, do you have a cohort that you actually need people to work through some limiting beliefs fairly quickly, like, Brand 30 you're posting on LinkedIn right away.

So we need to work with you to make sure that you're hyped and ready to post and knowing that we're here for you to get through any fear that might be going on. And I also think it's a really great opportunity to identity build. So like Brand 30, he said in his first email to me, he said, “Hola builders.”

And it's like, you know, Hey, you're going to be LinkedIn building. I can't wait to get going with you, basically. Right. And we're going to start talking about accountability on day three. 

And it also probably depends on whether your cohort also has a course that they're using. Some cohorts are really super personalized and have very minimal sort of coursework.

Other cohorts do have a course. Do you need people to be logging in and doing certain modules ideally. And if that's the case, well, then you want to onboard them to find the modules potentially to, you know, do a sort of diagnostic quiz with them to figure out what modules they actually need so they're not doing stuff they don't need. 

And that's often like from a pedagogy perspective, that's often what's missing is this kind of like, okay, well, what do you actually need? Where's your block? Let's find where your block is. And then let's, you know, move you forward. Cuz usually like if you teach long enough, you're going to notice that people get blocked in similar places.

So you just have to figure out where that place is and then create a little like quiz or whatever to help you identify where they're blocked, and then you can move them forward.

So it depends on the size of your cohort and what you need them to do. That's the other question is what, what was that one thing? What do you need them to do at that point? Do they need a mindset shift? Are they going to be fearful of what's coming up? Are you going to need to help coach them through some of that with some emails, again, kind of going back to those like copywriting principles of like, what's their problem and what testimonials, what kind of things can I do to help them? And then potentially more segmentation at this point, too, right? Like you might want to go into deeper segmentation, right? 

Like I had an email from Shopify about that was an onboarding for this dropshipping course. This wasn't a cohort-based course cuz there's not a lot out that specifically cohort-based but it said, you know, in the course, you're going to learn how to source great products, how to identify your audience, how to successfully position and set up your store for its first sale. Those are really big goals. And potentially whoever's in that course might already have their store set up.

What they might really need to do is identify an audience. So maybe giving them a way in that onboarding to say, Yeah you're right. I do want to identify my audience. That's my biggest problem right now. Then you can take them to where they need to go.

[00:39:09] Jonathan: Yeah, that makes sense. And you mentioned before that, you know, one of the things that we're accomplishing in this phase for onboarding is, combating buyer's remorse. And that's something that's very, very real for a cohort-based course creator because sometimes our courses are a thousand dollars or more.

And so. That's kind of a huge deal, unless somebody really knows you, like you're actually friends and you talk to each other on a regular basis. That's a scary thing to spend a thousand dollars or more on, on someone. And to basically put a bet on you, that you're going to actually take care of them and deliver on your promise.

And so I think in my experience, the worst thing that can happen is to spend a lot of money and then there's just radio silence. And so I think everything that you're talking about now is there's like for sure no radio silence in any of these situations, you're reaching out to them. You're telling them what they need to know.

And you're, basically like if there's a roadblock you're helping them through that. It's really easing them into day one. And I think that's super important for their emotions and their psychology, like not their psychology, but their mental health, even like, it's a scary thing to spend that much money.


[00:40:19] Jay: And it's often a lot of work, right? So to help people get into the mindset that this is going to help them right from the beginning. Right. I think that's one of the places where onboarding can really start to fall down is when it's very logistical, they don't feel necessarily like they're going to get the result they want, right.

To really remind them of why they're doing it. Even that accountability, email that I talked about, you know, he says like, you know, Brand 30, wouldn't be anything without the community. And he kind of goes on, you know, you'll find everything you need to start building lifelong relationships with other talented individuals and like-minded thinkers, but what's really missing in this accountability email is why it's so important for my LinkedIn journey to have an accountability partner in the first place.

Right. That if for those days, you know, like it might've been a stronger email, you know, in the sense that there's going to be a day that's going to come up where you're not going to want to post. When that happens, we have a community for you, but the only way community works is if you feel comfortable. Today's the day you're going to get comfortable in our community.

Right? Like that's super powerful, to be like, to like really be like, you know, like this probably already happened to that person. That's happened to me. I'm sure it's happened to everybody else too. Right. Where you're on, you're like, you know, you've decided I'm going to post for 30 days straight. I'm going to do it.

You know, you're at day seven and you're not posting. Right. And you don't know why, well, the community has your back for that. Right? And that's really where it starts to develop the groundwork and the foundation for some of the things they might need later. And to remind them what their big overall picture is that, you know, like you want to be on day seven, you don't want to be sitting there not posting, you know, at 11:00 PM feeling like you're a failure, eating ice cream. You want to have a community at your back who you could go to and say, I'm not sure what to post today. And someone can say, Hey, make the, you know, Hey, I'm here for you. Let's talk about. Right,

[00:42:17] Jonathan: Yeah. Yeah. That's the beauty of cohorts is that we have this community support, so we should use it.

[00:42:22] Jay: But that's kind of the copywriting framework there, right? Is I just, like, I just took out the problem of someone not wanting to post eventually. I agitated it and said, you know, Hey, you don't want to be there at 11 eating ice cream, sad you didn't post. And then I presented the solution as community. So, it's just like a super easy, powerful copywriting framework that you can even use in your onboarding.

Right? It’s just problem. Agitate the problem. Give them the solution. That's, well obviously your solution.

[00:42:47] Jonathan: Yeah. Yeah. Wow. Love it. Okay. Cool.

[00:42:50] Jay: Yeah. That's kind of the granular like copywriting framework.

[00:42:53] Jonathan: Nice. Okay. Good to know.

Awesome. So we have the onboarding phase, and then next phase comes and it is the coursework phase. So what's happening during this phase? What are we doing here?

[00:43:05] Jay: Again, it depends on what your course looks like. Right? Have you moved them over to a platform where you're mostly communicating with them on that platform? Do they need email nudges? You know, are, are we going to be Duolingo? I watched the Duolingo commercial recently. They have a drone where Duolingo is putting their notification out via drone, like on buildings showing people that they haven't logged into Duolingo in a certain number of days. (laughs) Right? 

So, I mean, it really starts to depend on what your course looks like, what you need them to do to get results and where you want them to be communicating with you. So email usually at this point is more nudging than anything else, nudging people back into the community. I know I was with Noom for a little while, and Noom had an SOS system that basically if you hadn't done something in a certain number of days, that they would, you would write your own SOS of like why you should log back into Noom.

So basically it's mostly around nudging and around what milestones you have in your coursework that need to be met. 

And whether your audience likes email becomes a question here too. Not all audiences, especially Gen Z are always using email a ton. So if you're getting a lot of great Slack engagement, do you need a ton of email? Potentially not. 

So it really becomes a question of how your cohort is running, and emails become more at this point nudging you back into the course itself.

[00:44:40] Jonathan: Yeah, that makes sense. And I was talking to Jay Clouse actually in the previous episode about this type of thing with like using email as an intervention to get someone back in the course. And, he was saying that sometimes it's, and these are my words, what I learned from him, not his words exactly. But like, basically. You know, someone might be dropping off the course not because they don't want to take it anymore, but maybe they're ashamed that they like missed a week and they didn't do the assignment and they don't want to like come in and disappoint you. And so, and so these emails can really be, it's not like a desperate, like, oh my gosh, like, are you going to continue with my program?

It's more like, how can I help you? Like, what's going on? Like, where can I support you? If there's an issue, like, please feel free to like come back in and there's no need to be ashamed. Like, you know, it's, really like for them as a service to them to reach back out to them during this time as the way that I think about it.

[00:45:36] Jay: Yeah. And so like help them with whatever’s blocking them at that time. Right? And to, and then I think it was also a point where Noom is going to remind them of why they were there in the first place. Not in a mean way, but just be like, Hey, you committed to this. And I love that you trusted me, and now I want you to trust me again and tell me what you need.

And honestly, they might just be busy too. Right. But that is something, you know, to think about like what potentially is going on and, you know, even give them some options and potentially to start in that onboarding, knowing that this might happen, to start a personalized email routine, that says, Hey, I'm super available via email. I know that it's not always comfortable to be in the group, or sometimes you don't have a habit of being in whatever platform I'm using. That I'm always here via email. I read personally every email, you know, and to really set up that foundation for later, if you need it to reach back out and say, Hey, don't forget that I'm still hear via email if that's your preferred method of communication.

[00:46:43] Jonathan: Okay. Awesome. I love that. So in our post-purchase phase, we have the onboarding, we have the coursework, where we are, kind of guiding them to continue to be part of the action. And then we finally have the brand advocate phase. Um, so what's that one all about?

[00:47:01] Jay: Well, brand advocacy can look different for everybody, but I was kind of thinking as I thought through brand advocacy for cohort-based course creators is that you usually, you can have like such an amazing cohort is to really take it, to start it off with a celebration. Like the cohort ends. There needs to be some celebration around that ending.

We talked a little bit at the beginning about a K-12 classroom, K-12 classrooms do an amazing… schools in general, actually do an amazing job of keeping kids engaged with live events. My daughter this week had like five spirit days around what she had to wear. You know, you might not need to do that much, but I think there's definitely a place for, you know, merchandise, for having a drink at the end of it, to be like, Hey, we are done, I'm so proud of all of you, right. To really bring that celebration in. 

And then after that celebration to think of these people that have gone through your course as kind of VIPs, to start some VIP content potentially. And I see other people also bringing them back in as, sometimes in their sales calls, but even sometimes keeping them on in the community as mentors. That can be super powerful as well, to have them in a mentorship role and potentially even to help you grow your business. You know, I’ve seen people hire them as well to, you know, to do things in their business, you know, like to help someone with the course content sometimes.

But even to think of them as, usually the term, I guess, would start to be affiliates. You would kind of nurture an affiliate relationship with them and what exactly that looks like, whether that includes, you know, a percentage back to your affiliate, if you're running an affiliate program, whether you nurture some referrals.

And I always just think of these as like sides of the same coin, right? Is that there's stuff for us where we get referrals as a creator and, you know, potentially an affiliate program for extra promotion. But then on the other side is that to then treat your affiliates and referrers really well with some VIP content and, you know, to say, like, reach back out to me, that might be something you do. Right. And like a month after they might reach out to you, the people that were in your program and say, Hey, how's it going? And just to give a little bit back to them, you could even do like an exit survey as well to see where people's next steps are as part of that certification process.

Like, you know, or I'm sorry, we didn't to talk about certificates. You could certify too. That's another exit way out, would be to offer a certification or a badge. People really love badges. So I think if you can offer a badge, why wouldn't you offer a badge? I'm like, I'm really honest with like, well, why wouldn't you?

[00:49:42] Jonathan: Yeah. For sure.

[00:49:43] Jay: Right? Like everybody loves a good badge.

[00:49:45] Jonathan: Yeah. Yeah, no doubt. Okay. There's a lot of stuff we can do there. Uh, exit survey, VIP content. What kind of VIP contents? What would that look like, potentially?

[00:49:57] Jay: It depends on the provider, but that could be again, like kind of exclusive calls with you. That could be exclusive kind of emails or even personalized emails, you know? That could be Easter egg content. That could be early access. Somebody was on my list that just sent out a free ticket to something, right.

If you like, depending on your business, if you're doing speaking, you often get complimentary tickets. That could be a good place to send your complimentary tickets too as well, to say like, Hey, as a, you know, a small thank you for this. And then like, even at the end of it, it could honestly, you know, especially at the end of your program could include merchandise as well.
You know, something that delights. That delight factor. Right. Whether it's, copy hackers does socks, they were sending out copy hacker socks. Right. Lessonly actually sent out a llama to all of their customers to have the Lessonly Llama, right? It starts to become like what your brand does. Right. That'd probably be like earlier in the process, but you know, to look for opportunities to kind of tag them as, I don't know if you want to use VIP, but tag them as, you know, former student.

And then to start to just include in your marketing ideas on how to continue to engage your former students, because they create such amazing word of mouth for you. And it's good for your brand that, and it just grows your brand as they go out and talk to other people about this great course, they just went through and how it changed their lives.

It's a great way to build trust, right? It's hard to measure, but you know, over a few emails, you know, that you just kind of put in your back pocket, like, why wouldn't you send out those emails to see how they're doing, or you know give them a chance to be mentoring your community?

[00:51:43] Jonathan: Yeah. Gotcha. Okay. Yeah. So there's a lot of things that you can really do with email at that point to just keep in touch with them basically. And, if there certain actions that can take, like, you know, join our celebration event or, you know, take this

[00:51:58] Jay: Some easy things would be like to engage on their content too. Right? So whoever's running, usually whoever is running a cohort-based course is usually a little bit farther along in their social media journey. And, often, you know, being given the opportunity to say like, Hey, respond to this and I will make sure that I, you know, retweet this for you or, I'll comment over the next couple of days this week, I'm going to comment on all, like, if you just send it to me, send me the link.

I will comment on your LinkedIn post, you know, something that's fairly simple, but can be a huge boost for people in your course that can make, you know, it's really valuable to them. That's not a lot of effort on your part.

[00:52:37] Jonathan: Love it, Jay. Well, I think we've kind of gone through the framework,

[00:52:42] Jay: Yeah. There's the framework.

[00:52:45] Jonathan: Which is awesome. I learned so much. So Jay, I have one more question for you. Final question. And that is how can listeners keep in touch with you?

[00:52:54] Jay: I'm pretty active on LinkedIn. That's probably the best place to find me. It’s just Jay McGrane on LinkedIn. And yeah, I do a 20 minute deep dive with anybody that is interested in email marketing. So definitely send me a DM and I'd love to get you on my calendar, cuz you know, I just really enjoy talking about email marketing.

I think there's just so much great stuff that we can do. And I love helping course creators and online course businesses where they get results for their students. Cuz you know, I think that's what breaks my heart the most is when people buy online courses and then don't see any results. So, you know, usually people are creating really great stuff and with the right marketing, you know, you can just skyrocket the results for people in your courses.

[00:53:40] Jonathan: Love that. Well, thank you so so much, Jay. It's been fun.

[00:53:43] Jay: Yeah, you too. Thanks.

[00:53:45] Jonathan: Cheers.

[00:53:51] Jonathan: Thanks for listening. If you'd like to listen to more episodes, hop aboard If you'd like to be my matey, I would love for you to message me on LinkedIn or Twitter. And remember, always captain your cohort, always be my matey, and never lick an iceberg while your ship is passing by.

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